Gaza gets more exciting and interesting everyday. The people living here live their lives very spontaneously. This morning I woke up in one of the oldest cities in Gaza. Nadal invited Jamaal and I to spend the night at his house in Shegeie. I barely got any sleep. Jamaal, a man named Ahmed who i can only describe as a gentle giant or the big show due to his huge size and Nadal decided to play FIFA 2012 throughout the night leaving the Arabic commentary and lights on. Whenever Ahmed would beat Jamaal or Nadal I would hear them scream the words ya Ahbal or something to that effect. I woke up first at 3am and then again at 7 am. Nadal woke me up offering me coffee and kirshalah. I had a double shwarma the night before and politely refused. I felt like a zombie. In fact I looked like a zombie. I asked Nadal to show me the way to the shower but he said there wasn’t one. Taking out my jeans and deodorant I had no option to get changed quickly and make my way to Al Ahzer University in South Remaal. When we stepped outside nadals house I was in shock. The dead street which we walked through the night before had turned into one of the busiest markets I have ever seen in my life. Fruits, vegetables, various household appliances and just about everything could be found in Shegeie market. We got in a taxi and made our way to Al Ahzer. The university was quite modern. I expected it to be more “ancient” and was surprised at the modern setup of the Al Ahzer campus.
Nadal had accounting and there was not a chance that I was going to attend that lecture. He introduced me to his friend Mohamed Al Azbat. Mohamed studied Psychology and was able to speak basic English. We arrived on the 3rd floor landing and made our way to class. In class Mohamed, asked the lecturer if I could join the lecture. Being South African and being Muslim on top of it I was more than welcome. The lecture started with the lecturer telling the students about the Al Nakba. He spoke about how the British gave permission to the Yahood (Jews) against the will of Palestinians. Deir Yassein and Masmiyah could also be heard. He spoke with conviction and how the youth have many difficulties to face. Although he said that the fight has to be fought for Palestinians basic Human Rights , I could tell that Islam plays a vital part in the lives of Palestinians. During his short speech he mentioned that God is always on the side of oppressed and that the youth will have a vital role to play in the liberation of Palestine. The lecture eventually got under way and he spoke so fast in Arabic I could not even understand how the Palestinians knew what he was saying…
Nadal arrived early outside the classroom. I could see him poking his head through the window shouting “yallah”. I told Mohamed that i had to leave. We got up and thanked the lecturer for allowing me to experience a lecture at Al Ahzer University. I took a quick photo with Nadal on the balcony of al Ahzer. It was one university lecture that I will never forget…
In the court yard of Al Ahzer I explained to Nadal that time was running out. I had to be at the CPDS building in Gaza City for a presentation. The presentation had to be on the role the youth played in mass mobilization and resistance against the Apartheid Regime. The time was 12 PM and I had to have my slideshow presentation ready by 3PM. I had not even started. To say I was tired was an understatement and I was worried that the presentation would be a flop. Nadal and I made our way around Gaza looking for coffee shops that had electricity. We FINALLY managed to get one Jundy. I sat down and ordered some water. The waiter kept asking us what do we want to eat but we didn’t have time. I needed to get my presentation down and get it done fast…
I connected my laptop to the wireless in the coffee shop. I must say with all the power shortages there are plugs all over Gaza. I mean everywhere. In the coffee shop there were plugs coming out the floor, walls and ceilings. It was amazing. Back at home in South Africa it’s like playing hide and go seek looking for a plug. I just connected to the web and typed in Google search engine “Soweto Uprising 1976” when the power cut. I couldn’t believe it and all Nadal said was : Welcome to Gaza
With the coffee shop having no electricity, I decided to make my way to the CPDS building early where Yousef offered me the usage of his internet and laptop. The Soweto Uprising of 1976 was the topic of discussion I would be using for my presentation. I put an impressive collection of pictures together that would be used. Pictures of Robin Island, Nelson Mandela and Yasser Arafat, the scene outside the Union buildings at the first democratic election, Hector Pieterson and the Old and New South African flags were some pictures that I chose.
My mother messaged me on my blackberry before the presentation began. It really gave me the confidence and motivation I needed to have a good presentation. Cool, calm and collected I made my way to the boardroom where the presentation would be done. The room was quite full and I spotted a few familiar faces. A short 5 min video clip was played first just as an introduction to the Soweto Uprising of 1976. When the South African National Anthem started playing really got overwhelmed with some deep thoughts and emotions. Images of the Apartheid regimes violence and military force being used on black school kids in Soweto reminded me directly of what the Palestinians face today against the Zionist state of Israel. However I believe that what the Palestinian people are subjected to in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip is much worse than what the South Africans went through but it is the closest situation that one can compare it to. It was at this moment that I realized how proud I am to be South African and what we fought for: truth, justice, peace and equality for ALL South Africans.
After the presentation Youssef from CPDS congratulated me. So did many others including an American Palestinian by the name of Fidah. Many other Palestinians attended the presentation and were highly impressed at the professionalism I showed. To be quite honest I was a bit surprised my self but when we have faith in God anything is possible.
Mohamed Al Abyd then told me I would be attending a short 1 hour lecture at the deaf school in Gaza. The deaf school was built and is financed by Germany. It was so great to see the flags of Palestine and Germany next to each other at the entrance of the deaf school. We made our way to the 7th floor where the lecture was to be held. About 6 young Palestinians walked in soon after we arrived in the room. I greeted them and they just smiled. Saarah then arrived. She was one of the teachers at the deaf school and I was amazed that she mastered the art of Palestinian sign language in just under a year. The young men started to speak to in other in sign language and were so excited to see each other. Saara then introduced my as Talgha from South Africa. I could tell they were happy to see a foreigner as they asked Saara questions about me and greeted me with the Arabic greeting of ahlan wasahlan. It really touched my heart how the people of Gaza look after each other. One can be a university student but in his spare time he/she is learning sign language in order to help their deaf Palestinian brothers and sisters. This once again is something to be admired of the people of Palestine. Strong, determined, motivated and loving despite the brutal military occupation and perpetual war on the Palestinian people by the Zionist state of Israel.
I left the deaf school building in central Gaza and was in formed that Ahmed-Noor and Abyed the Gazan twins turned 20. Oh yes- haflah (party), Palestinian style and I was invited. The party which consisted on Palestinian music, dabke , birthday cake, some shishaa and being boys only was very Halaal. It lasted about 3 hours and the time was about 9PM. Jamaal, Jihaad and my self headed to Al Remaal where i would spend the night at Mohamed Al Azhat house. Mohamed was the guy who I attended the lecture with at Al Ahzer university. We all sat down and enjoyed some local Palestinian coffee which I must say is quite bitter at first at definitely takes awhile to get used to, but once you get used to it is addictive and tastes really good. The youth and I sat up until 1AM talking about politics in the Arab world and how they feel about the situation in Gaza. It is very interesting that most Gazan’s hold different views and opinions when it comes to politics or solutions to the Arab/Israeli conflict.
Jamaal and Jihaad left to go home and it was just Mohamed and I left. We made cheese sandwiches with Hummus before we decided to call it a night and go to bed. Mohamed told me about the war in 2008/09. I could see that the war affected many Palestinians psychologically. During the war he said that no one would leave home and it would take sometimes up to four days to get basic food and supplies. The entire Gaza strip was attacked in Operation Cast Lead and no place was safe Mohamed said.
Almost every Palestinian I have met has lost a family member, home, friend or something due to the conflict. The Palestinians did not ask for any of this nor do they deserve these brutal conditions that the Zionists have enforced upon them. Palestine was Palestine since and before 1948 when Israel was created. Palestine was the heart of the Middle East where Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in peace. If somebody came to your home destroyed it, raped your mother and imprisoned your father what are you going to do? Sit back and say “be my guest?”Any sane individual is going to stand up and protect what is his. This is merely what the Palestinians are doing. NOT transgressing but resisting, resisting the Zionist occupation of their homeland.